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The Bell Jar

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Summary: The Bell Jar opens with Esther Greenwood, a clever nineteen year old girl working as an intern at a well-known women’s magazine in New York City. Despite her seemingly wonderful life, success, and academic achievements, Esther often feels overwhelming senses of alienation and looks to her future with a sense of hopelessness in fear of becoming a docile housewife. These traits of early signs of depression soon became inflamed by her desire to conform to social expectations of what a young woman should be - a virgin until marriage, but a mother and wife after. Admonished by her boss about not having a clear focus of her career, she goes on an array of dates. Sadly, the last of her dates attempts to assault her, but Esther escapes and returns to her mother’s home in the suburbs the next morning. While Esther is with her mother, she discovers that she had not been accepted into the summer creative writing program she applied to, which sends her spiraling into a deeper, suicidal depression. She soon cannot write or read, and sleep. Esther consults Dr. Gordon, who messes up her electroshock therapy, which puts her into a very unstable state of depression. This causes her to decide to end her life, so she hides herself away under her home and ingests a whole bottle of sleeping pills. Fortunately, she is saved a few days later. After staying at several hospitals, Esther gets put into a private psychiatric institution, where she is introduced to a very compassionate female doctor, Dr. Nolan. She gives Esther several, now successful, electroshock and insulin therapy sessions. Also at the institution, she reunites with Joan, an old friend from high school who had also dated Buddy. As Esther was recovering, she had a sexual enc... ... middle of paper ... ...tly idea that she will have to face her peers’ unfriendly attention, which shows that she hasn’t been cured but numbed. The book ends as Esther enters the room for her exit interview, which leaves the reader to decide whether or not she is truly saved. How to Read Literature Like a Professor: The chapter “It’s All Political” in How to Read Literature Like a Professor tells us that most books, if not all, have hidden political aspects in them. Foster presents the idea that “every work is either part of the social problem or part of the solution” (114-115). The Bell Jar reveals how much the pressures of society can affect and hurt people and presents some solutions to help Esther return to her former self, such as psychiatric help and shock therapy. By realizing the political connection to the author can help the reader understand and analyze the theme more clearly.
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